[Lorne] Michaels said that the show auditioned "four to five" actors for the Obama role... "When it came down to it, I went with the person with the cleanest comedy 'take' on" Obama, Michaels said.Why did the professor of critical studies come up with an example of a large American black woman playing a skinny English white woman? Kind of stacking the deck there, Professor Boyd. Now, if Queen Latifah played Hillary — with a lot of hair and makeup work, I can picture it — the issue would be: Did she do it well and was it funny? Which is the test SNL applied to Arneson. In any case, what is Boyd talking about? We are much more sensitive about a white person wearing blackface than about a black person playing white!
Michaels said he liked how [Fred] Armisen caught the tilt of Obama's head, the rhythm of his speaking style, "the essence" of his look. "It's not about race," Michaels insisted via phone....
Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, says viewers might have a different reaction if the roles were reversed. What if, he says, "SNL" had cast a black woman to portray Hillary Clinton? "Do you think there's ever going to be a day when we start casting Queen Latifah to portray Princess Diana?" he asks. "We just don't have the same representations going in other direction."
Remember Eddie Murphy in the 1984 SNL sketch "White Like Me"? Could white America have laughed any harder? "I've got a lot of friends, and we've got a lot of makeup. So, the next time you're huggin' up with some really super, groovy white guy, or you met a really great, super keen white chick, don't be too sure. They might be black." Was there any outrage over that?
ADDED: To be fair to Professor Boyd, if the question is whether a black actor would ever get the part of playing a white person, the answer may be that there are always plenty of white actors around to fill the white roles. It's not about whether we find blackface less acceptable than whiteface, but just that black actors don't get the chance to play white. But it's at least as rare for a white actor to get the part of playing a black person. And, as I implied at the beginning of this post, it would be more racially offensive to give the role to a black actor who doesn't look at all like the black person he's supposed to portray. It would represent the view that all black people look alike.